Towards the end of her senior year at Penn State, Susie Taylor comes home to Miami and goes out with a girlfriend. They’re singing along at a piano bar when her friend nudges Susie and points out a gorgeous guy across the room. Incongruously, he’s wearing a tennis visor completely the wrong way, making it seem as though he has a duck bill growing out of the back of his head. As Susie walks past him, she can’t help asking about it.
“Why are you wearing your visor upside down and backwards?”
“To pick up girls,” says the guy, Steve, a Cuban-American version of Jon Hamm.
“Is it working?”
“You tell me.”
Clearly, it does. Yet after a summer fling, they break up as Susie goes to London for a graduate degree in classical theater and then to New York to pursue an acting career. Four and a half years later, she returns to Miami for a friend’s wedding and sees Steve across the room. As they reprise their pick-up lines from their first cute meeting, the look in their eyes says it all. Susie moves home to Miami, marrying her “soul mate” and beginning a whole new life.
Friends compare Susie and Steve to Lucy and Ricky from I Love Lucy, as their lives play out like that of a wacky sitcom family. He’s the linear, grounded lawyer, and she’s the zany, creative type, always coming up with a wild new idea. Their eight-year-old son, Jaedon, seems to take after his dad, while six-year-old Mason exudes his mom’s carefree spirit.
As a baby, Mason’s personality translates into a messiness that defies all Susie’s efforts to keep him neat and clean. Even now, Steve says, “When he eats, it’s like a bomb went off.”
A moment of revelation occurs in 2006, when the family is on a long plane ride. Susie holds Mason through most of the flight, using all the clothes, wipes, bibs and patience she has brought with her. After everything in her carry-on bag turns into a soggy, smelly mess, she hands Mason to Steve for the last part of the trip. Amazingly, he’s wearing a fitness shirt that effortlessly wipes clean and dry. Susie feels the high-tech fabric and starts imagining how wonderful it would be to have bibs made from the material.
Since Steve would give her the shirt off his back, he supports her new obsession. Susie firmly believes that if she builds a better baby bib, grateful moms everywhere would beat a path to her door. The fact that she has no idea how to start or run a business never daunts her.
Drawing on her acting skills, she plays the part of a businesswoman as she calls up fabric manufacturers to ask for samples. After finding the right material, she looks on craigslist to hire someone who can cut the fabric. Since the cutter works during the day, they need to find a convenient, well-lit place to exchange goods at night. They end up meeting at a gas station, where patrons wonder what’s really in the small, brown-paper-wrapped bundles Susie loads into her car. After all, this is Miami.
Eventually, Susie realizes that the fabric needs to be cut more consistently, with a machine that costs $600,000. She finds a factory with that equipment, but doesn’t realize that the facility also works on military products. She still doesn’t know exactly what the factory builds, but one day the FBI arrives to shut down the operation, stopping her production. She needs to explain to the authorities that she only wants to make baby bibs.
In pursuit of another facility, Susie convinces Steve to drive four hours to see a factory in North Carolina. It happens to be their wedding anniversary, and she can think of no better way to celebrate it. They eventually settle on a factory in Hialeah, Florida, and enlist Susie’s uncle, Richard, and sister, Heather, to run production and marketing. Bibbitec officially incorporates in 2009, selling its products online and at trade shows.
For additional capital, Susie and Steve pitch Bibbitec on Shark Tank. After being rejected, Susie realizes that her approach runs counter to conventional business wisdom. “I’m not motivated by money,” she says. “I just want to make a better product.” Instead of planned obsolescence, she strives to offer long-lasting products made with the highest integrity. As a reflection of her passion and ethics, she often wears heart-shaped jewelry, including pieces from Brighton Collectibles, whose signature logo is a heart.
Ultimately, she hopes her endeavors provide teachable moments for her kids, as they watch her persevere against all odds and see through her passion projects. Now that Bibbitec seems to be on a more secure footing, Mason seems truly proud of his mom’s accomplishments. “See daddy? See what happened?” he says to Steve, after Shark Tank calls. “She believed in what she did.”
As for Steve, his law office is getting more and more inundated by baby bibs, as he takes a more active role in Bibbitec's finances and distribution. While he will continue to run his elder law practice, he’s also poised for Susie’s next big creative idea.
“With Susie, life is like a box of chocolates,” he says, with a loving laugh, quoting Forrest Gump. “You never know what you’re going to get.”